Westercon 70 Completes Its Guest of Honor Slate

Westercon 70, happening in Tempe, AZ from July 1-4, has announced their final five Guests of Honor.

Science GoH Henry Vanderbilt

Henry founded Space Access Society in 1992 and ran the quietly influential annual Space Access Conferences in most of the years since. He is not a rocket scientist, but he can translate reasonably well between rocket scientist and English. (He did manage a bunch of rocket engineers once, but that’s another story.) He first started working for radically cheaper space transportation via fast-turnaround fuel-and-go reusable rockets back in 1986, when that was all strictly SF. He’s a lifelong Fan but he’s nevertheless pleased as hell to see this plot device now doing a genre jump to current-day technothriller. He looks forward to it soon settling down as just another taken-for-granted background element in mainstream contemporary literature.

Fan GoHs Val & Ron Ontell

Val’s 43 years in fandom include chairing the 2011 World Fantasy Convention, the 1986 and 1989 Lunacons in New York and the 2010 Conjecture in San Diego. She’s currently Guest Liaison for many San Diego cons. Ron has served as the President of the New York Science Fiction Society (the Lunarians) and Val was a board member in the 1980s. Both have held committee positions at a variety of local cons, Westercons and Worldcons and are Senior Assistants in the Autograph Area at San Diego Comic-Con. They’ve also run tours in connection with overseas Worldcons since 1987, including Britain (twice), Ireland, Japan, Australia (twice) and, of course, Helsinki in 2017.

Special Media GoHs Bjo and John Trimble, sponsored in part by the United Federation of Phoenix.

John and Bjo met in science fiction fandom and married in 1960. They originated Art Shows at Worldcon and San Diego Comic-Con and Futuristic Fashion Shows at CostumeCon. They chaired Westercon in 1970 and John co-chaired in 1965. They worked together on the original Save Star Trek letter-writing campaign, which is generally credited with allowing a third season to happen. They’re still active in the SCA and wider fandom. They enjoy unusual cheeses, home-brewed dark beer, intelligent conversation and travel anywhere at any time.

[Thanks to Kate Hatcher for the story.]

2018 Westercon Announces Site, Organizational Changes

Westercon 71, the 2018 West Coast Science Fantasy Conference, will be held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, rather than the originally-announced venue, convention chair Nikki Elbright announced on May 31.

The convention, to be held July 4-8, 2018, will be run in conjunction with Myths and Legends Con 6, as originally announced. This change was part of a reorganization that saw Shiny Garden, the non-profit parent organization of Myths and Legends, assume responsibility for running the 2018 Westercon after the group that originally won the right to host Westercon 71 dissolved.

The Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, recent venue of MileHiCon, proved to be more amenable to hosting an event that includes traditional Westercon hospitality and social activities, according to Ebright. In her announcement, Ebright also said that the Westercon 71 web site is being redesigned and will soon have revised information about the venue and convention.

These changes have no effect upon the Westercon 70 in Tempe, Arizona, which will be July 1-4, 2017 at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel.

[Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the story.]

Classics of S-F at Westercon 70

By John Hertz:  Westercon LXX has confirmed we’ll discuss three Classics of Science Fiction, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

I’m still with “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Each of our three may be more interesting now than when first published.

Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Leigh Brackett

The Sword of Rhiannon (1949)

It’s been called her best early work; concise, eloquent, fresh, poetic.  Why a sword? is answered, also Is this science fiction?  Perhaps unanswerable by human beings, but addressed, are questions of identity, motive, recognition, and will, during an adventure in our great romantic tradition.

Fredric Brown

The Lights in the Sky Are Stars (1953)

Some say this belonged on the Retrospective Hugo ballot at Noreascon IV (62nd World Science Fiction Convention) – and argue over which it should have replaced, The Caves of Steel, Childhood’s End, Fahrenheit 451, Mission of Gravity, or More Than Human.  A straightforward s-f novel by Brown – and what a wallop!

H.G. Wells

The Time Machine (1895)

 

Far better known in the wide wide world than our other two – why?  Never mind marketing; Hesse’s Glass Bead Game won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  In fact we see only two distant times: the more gripping is narrated in a way which, upon reflection, is quite suspect.  And the Time Traveller never returns for lunch.

Utah Launches 2019 Westercon and Prospective NASFiC Bid

A bid to bring Westercon back to Utah in 2019 has gone live. A placeholder Tempe bid, created when no one else filed, has stepped aside to give them a clear field.

The new bid proposes to hold Westercon 72 from July 3-7, 2019 at the Davis Conference Center and adjacent hotels in Layton, Utah. (Reportedly a barber shop quartet convention has locked up the rooms in Salt Lake City on the required dates, which is the reason for not going back there.)

Bid chair Ben Hatcher is supported by experienced leaders from the 2014 Salt Lake City Westercon committee, including Vice-Chair Kate Hatcher, and Bid Advisor/Treasurer Dave Doering.

The group has also declared that if a 2019 NASFiC becomes available (which seems likely, given Dublin’s unopposed Worldcon bid) they will bid for that as well, with the intention of holding a combined Westercon/NASFiC. (Note: Under the rules, a North American Science Fiction Convention — NASFiC — is held when the Worldcon is hosted outside the continent.)

As they explain on their website:

Side Note: The question of bidding for a NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention) came down to the fact if a Worldcon is voted overseas, then there would be two conventions, Westercon and the NASFiC, with similar goals, competing for space and members in the same year while dodging the dates of the overseas Worldcon.

The options are sexy for Worldcon 2019. This is an opportunity to solidify membership, expand awareness of all three conventions, and teach what has made these honored conventions great for so many years.

Utah for 2019 does not push for any particular bid, Worldcon will vote what is best for their convention. We only wish to be up front, and declare if a NASFiC becomes open due to an overseas bid, that we will bid for that as well, and run/combine both for a unique experience.

Care to Run a Westercon?

By John Hertz: Westercon is the annual West Coast Science Fantasy Conference. It’s almost as old as the Worldcon – July 1-4, 2017, in Tempe, Arizona, will be Westercon LXX.

In our happy world we have local cons, regional cons, national cons, international cons, and a Worldcon; special-interest and general-interest cons. Westercon is a regional general-interest con.

“West Coast” means the west coast of North America, but not strictly: the con can be as far east as 104° West Longitude, and as far off the coast the other way as Hawaii. It’s been in El Paso (Westercon XLIX, farthest east to date); Honolulu (Westercon LIII, farthest south and west); and Calgary (Westercon LVIII, farthest north).

You can learn more at this official Website, which has, among other things, the By-Laws.

Or there are lots of folks with whom you can confer outside Electronicland; me, for instance, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

As with many of our cons, Westercon sites are chosen by vote, currently two years in advance. Last year we voted on the 2017 Westercon; this year we’ll vote on 2019.

We invite would-be Westercon hosts to file a bid (Section 3.5 of the By-Laws).

But what if, as a famous flying squirrel put it, that trick doesn’t work?

Not so long ago a bid was campaigning unopposed – usually a compliment, in effect the community saying “We can’t do better than you, go ahead” – but by voting-time had unfortunately lost our confidence, and didn’t get enough votes. So site-selection went to the Business Meeting, Another bid which had previously been a joke decided to get real, made a fine presentation, answered questions well, and was voted in.

This year we have another adventure. Normally, Westercon alternates among three regions, North, Central, and South. If any bid from outside the current region files by a stated deadline, the current region can’t. But if that doesn’t happen, alternation is set aside; the gates are thrown open; it’s anybody’s game. That’s where we are as I write.

So now’s your chance. File by April 15th (the official Website tells you how, and explains our few requirements; or you can learn in other ways) and it could be you.

You’ll still have to get votes. You don’t have to have experience working on Westercons, but it sure helps. You do have to persuade the rest of us that you can do it.

What if no one files by the 15th? Well, that’s in the By-Laws too. But don’t make us go there.

Pixel Scroll 3/1/17 Old Man Pixel, He Just Keeps Scrollin’ Along

(1) HELSINKI NEWS. Worldcon 75 is holding an Academic Poster competition and would very much like participation from as many university students and researchers as possible.

We are hosting a science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) poster competition for undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. The competition is also open to posters that explore the connections between STEMM subjects and SF/fantasy/horror. There will be a €100 prize for the poster that best communicates research to the general public.

Presenters will be able to share their research with an audience that is very interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, but where many audience members will not have been formally educated in STEMM subjects. In addition, presenters will be invited to give five minute mini-talks on Saturday 12th August 2017 explaining their research. Taken together, the posters and mini-talks represent an exciting opportunity for the presenters to practice research communication, and for audience to learn about cutting-edge research.

If you are interested in displaying a poster then fill in our web form below or follow this direct link to the form.

The deadline for applications is 1st May 2017 and we will inform you of our decision by mid-June.

(2) DREAM FULFILLED. Phil Kaveny, who I know from the Mythopoeic Society, announced the script for his play “The Munitions Factory” is available from Amazon Kindle.  He calls it “My project of a lifetime.”

The Munitions Factory is a play about love, money, revolution, and the military industrial complex. Set in Imperial Germany in 1917 during the worst winter in German history, The Munitions Factory is really about our world in the 21st century. It is a hard driving play that will jar you out of your complacency, and it is also a compelling love story about characters who walk the razor’s edge between desperate love and repulsion that is common in wartime.

(3) DOWN TO THE WIRE. In comments Jonathan Edelstein pointed out that “a team headed by the heroic Jake Kerr is putting together a 2017 Campbell-eligible anthology.”

The submission form is here for any Campbell-eligible authors (first pro publication in 2015 or 2016) who want to submit a sample of last year’s work.

(4) ODDS FAVOR THE HOUSE. The Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance opened voting today for the CLFA Book of the Year Awards.

CLFA an online group of readers, authors and other creative individuals who want to see more freedom-friendly storytelling in the marketplace. We provide our members with networking opportunities as well as a safe, friendly and open environment for both political and creative discussions. We are currently at over 1300 members strong, with new participants joining us on a daily basis….

CLFA Book of the Year Awards, now in their third year, seek to recognize the best in freedom-friendly fiction. To qualify for entry in the CLFA 2017 Book of the Year contest, the work has to be over 50k words and first published in any form in 2016. Our members voted to arrive at the Top 10 list, which is now open to the public for the final vote.

Voting is open until midnight on March 31, 2017. Winners to be announced in April 2017. Voting happens here.

The finalists are:

  • Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright
  • Discovery by Karina Fabian
  • Set to Kill by Declan Finn
  • By the Hands of Men, Book Three: The Wrath of a Righteous Man by Roy M. Griffis
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
  • Domino by Kia Heavey
  • Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by John Ringo
  • Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
  • Brings the Lightning by Peter Grant

At the moment Peter Grant’s novel from Castalia House is leaving the field behind. He’s got 50 votes to 25 votes for John C. Wright’s novel (also from Castalia House). Last year’s Dragon Award-winning Souldancer by Brian Niemeier has one vote so far.

(5) INJUSTICE. Australia writer Tom Taylor, of Injustice Gods Among Us and Injustice 2 comics, told his Facebook readers he won’t be at Emerald City Comic Con this week and or other U.S. events.

Sadly, I won’t be attending Emerald City Comicon in Seattle this week.

I have also turned down all other US signing and convention invitations so far this year.

I know I’m far from the only person concerned about traveling to the States at this time, but I wanted to explain my decision.

I want to start by saying this decision was incredibly difficult. I was really looking forward to this trip. I have traveled to the US regularly since 2009. This year, I have four different books with three different publishers, and a TV series to promote. Beyond this, I have fans and colleagues I was looking forward to meeting. I also have many good friends in the States, and I was looking forward to catching up with all of them. Truth be told, I’m missing them.

But America, through no fault of most of its citizens, doesn’t feel like a safe or welcoming travel destination at this moment.

There have been reports of interrogation, phone data downloads, requests for social media accounts, returns and five-year travel bans and everyone from children to the elderly being detained. All of this has many people I’ve spoken to reconsidering or cancelling their US travel plans.

I’ve had friends and people I work with suggest I leave my phone at home, or delete my twitter account for a month before I come.

I refuse those terms.

My twitter account isn’t complimentary towards the current administration, but it’s far from inflammatory and shouldn’t need to be scrutinized to gain entry to a country where free-speech is so highly valued.

Traveling fifteen hours on a plane is bad enough. Travelling towards uncertainty, half-worried about being caught in limbo by overzealous border security, with my wife and children wondering why I haven’t called, is nightmare fuel…..

(Via Comicsbeat.)

(6) PENRIC SEQUEL. Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest novella Mira’s Last Dance (Penric & Desdemona Book 4) is out.

(7) VOTE FOR PAUL WEIMER. Ten days ‘til Down Under Fan Fund voting closes. The deadline is midnight, March 10 (PST). Our Paul Weimer is the only candidate for the trip to the Australian National Convention, but the contribution of $5 or more accompanying your vote will help keep the fund going during and after Paul’s trip. Click here to get started.

CANDIDATE PLATFORM

Paul Weimer

I’m a podcaster for the Skiffy and Fanty podcast, the SFF audio podcast, a noted SF/F book reviewer and a regular panelist at local cons. I am also an amateur photographer. I have only been to one international con, the Worldcon in London in 2014, and would love to broaden my international fandom connections. If I have the honor of being selected, I aim to build the links I already have with Australian fandom (in things like being a prior participant in The Australian SF Snapshot) into face to face interviews, meetings, and more with fans and genre folk at Continuum and elsewhere in Australia. Have camera and recorder and ready to travel!

Nominators: North America: Mike Glyer, Arref Mak, and Jen Zink. Australasia: Gillian Polack and Alexandra Pierce.

(8) GLOWING REVIEWS. Jason continues to burn the midnight oil and has melted down another month of online science fiction and fantasy offerings into a shiny list of favorite stories in “Summation of Online Fiction: February 2017” at Featured Futures.

Thirteen February pro-rate webzines (the same as last month’s list except that a new bimonthly issue of Compelling replaced the defunct Fantastic) produced forty-three stories of 196,912 words. I most appreciated six (amounting to 14% of the whole)…

(9) SMALL WORLD, BIG NEWS. ChiZine Publications has cut an illustrated book deal with George A. Romero, creator of The Night of the Living Dead. They have acquired The Little World of Humongo Bongo, an illustrated book, originally published in French.

The Little World of Humongo Bongo is the tale of fire-breathing giant Humongo Bongo, who lives on the tiny planet of Tongo. Gentle and curious, his world is thrown upside down when he encounters a race of tiny people named the Minus, who initially worship him as a God but then turn on him when they succumb to fear, greed and the lust for power….

The Little World of Humongo Bongo will be published in Fall/Winter 2017, in association with Dave Alexander’s Untold Horror, a multi-media brand dedicated to exploring the greatest horror stories never told.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 1, 1692 — The Salem Witch Trials began in Massachusetts with the conviction of West Indian slave, Tituba, for witchcraft.

(11) CALLING ALL SMOFS. Kevin Standlee shared the news that as of yesterday there was still no bid for the 2019 Westercon, to be selected this July in Tempe.

Any site in Western North America (or Hawaii) is eligible. (Nobody filed by the end of December 2016, so the exclusion zone is suspended.) The filing deadline for the ballot is April 15, 2017. If no bid files by then, site selection won’t have any bids on the ballot, and I probably will have to ask Tempe for a larger room and longer time slot for the Westercon Business Meeting.

So here’s your chance to host a Westercon!

The bidding requirements are in the Westercon Bylaws, Article 3. The bylaws are on the Westercon web site at http://www.westercon.org/organization/business/

It’s approximately the same as Worldcon, with minor differences. The outline is the same: file bidding papers, and if the voters at the administering Westercon select you, you get the bid. If nobody wins, the Business Meeting decides.

(12) SLCC UPDATE. Here’s Bryan Brandenburg of the Salt Lake Comic Con appearing before the Utah Legislature (to the right of the flag). In his address, Bryan emphasized that their intent is to fill the void and not replace the other commercial events.

(13) ROBOMALLCOP. Francis Hamit is sufficiently impressed with the company that he bought some stock. “I thought this might be of interest. Securitas is the largest provider of contract human security officers in the world. Knightscope is a new company with a unique robotic system that does not replace human officers but does greatly extend their range.” And they have some good news.

Knightscope, developer of advanced physical security technologies focused on significantly enhancing US security operations, and Securitas AB (SECU-B.ST), the world’s second largest private security company, announced today that the parties are extending their channel partner agreement through February 2020. The agreement gives Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Securitas, rights to offer Knightscope’s technologies to its significant existing customer base, while Knightscope continues to develop new technologies and provide operational support.

Hamit adds:

Any resemblance to the Daleks is strictly coincidental. I am sure.

(14) UNDERSTANDING FUTURISM. New from McFarland, Science Fiction and Futurism: Their Terms and Ideas by Ace G. Pilkington.

Science and science fiction have become inseparable—with common stories, interconnected thought experiments, and shared language. This reference book lays out that relationship and its all-but-magical terms and ideas. Those who think seriously about the future are changing the world, reshaping how we speak and how we think.

This book fully covers the terms that collected, clarified and crystallized the futurists’ ideas, sometimes showing them off, sometimes slowing them down, and sometimes propelling them to fame and making them the common currency of our culture.

The many entries in this encyclopedic work offer a guided tour of the vast territories occupied by science fiction and futurism.

Beware, it will help multiply the number of books on your TBR pile. In his Foreword, David Brin says, “Provocative and enticing? Filled with ‘huh!’ moments and leads to great stories? That describes this volume.”

(15) RING THAT BELLE. John Ostrander talks about The Other in “The Face in the Mirror” at ComicMix.

The most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featured an article about and interview with Emma Watson, playing Belle in the upcoming live-action Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. She may be best known for playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films. In addition to being very talented, Ms. Watson is also very smart and very articulate. As the article notes, she has also been a leader in feminist causes.

In the article, she’s asked why it is hard for some male fans to enjoy a female hero. (Witness the fanboy furor at the all-female remake of Ghostbusters and the female leads in the last two Star Wars films.) She replied: “It’s something they [some male fans] are not used to and they don’t like that. I think if you’ve been used to watching characters that look like, sound like, think like you and then you see someone [unexpected] up on the screen, you go ‘Well, that’s a girl; she doesn’t look like me. I want it to look like me so that I can project myself onto the character.’. . .for some reason there’s some kind of barrier there where [men] are like: ‘I don’t want to relate to a girl.’”

That sounds right to me. We’ve seen that attitude prevalent not only in movie fans but comic fans as well. There’s a wish fulfillment, a fantasy fulfillment, in comics and comics-related TV and movies, in fantasy as well and we want to be able to easily project ourselves into that. For some male fans, a woman doesn’t cut it. The bias also can extend to seeing someone of a different race as the hero. I think it’s certainly true about sexual identity as well. To appeal to a certain demographic, the hero, the lead, cannot be female, or black, or gay. And heaven forbid they should be all three; tiny minds might explode….

Are you Arab? Do you wear a turban? Are you black? Are you gay? Are you female? Then you are not like me, you are “Other.” And that is inherently dangerous. We cannot be equal. It comes down to “zero-sum thinking” which says that there is only so many rights, so much love, so much power to be had. If I have more of any of these than you, I must lose some for you to gain.

Some of the people feel they don’t have much. I remember a line from Giradoux’s one-act play The Apollo of Bellac: “I need so much and I have so little and I must protect myself.” Sharing is not gaining; sharing is losing what little you may have.

Except it’s not. If for you to keep your power intact, you must deny someone else the power to which they have a right, it’s not really your power. It’s theirs and it’s been stolen.

Pop culture has its part to play. Putting women, blacks, gays, Latinos, and others in the central role helps normalize the notion of equality. Mary Tyler Moore did it; Bill Cosby (gawd help me) did it, Rogue One does it. However, pop culture can – and has – also re-enforced negative stereotypes. So – how do we engage it for more positive results?

Denny O’Neil, many years ago, when he was editing a special project I was working on told me, “You can say anything you want but first you have to tell a story.” That’s your ticket in. “Tell me a story” appeals to the very roots of who we are as human beings. It’s how we explain and codify our world. If you want to open a closed mind, go through the heart. Don’t lecture; engage. Show, don’t tell. Showing women, blacks, LGBTQ, Latinos, Asians, and so on as heroes, as something positive, normalizes the notion. If I can be made to identify with them then The Other is no longer strange; they are me and, thus, not other.

(16) BRADBURY ASSOCIATIONAL ITEM. I’d tell you to start shaking the change out of your piggy bank except that will only work if you filled it with gold sovereigns. Still available on eBay, Ray Bradbury-owned oil painting by Raymond Bayless. Price: $15,000.

Ray Bradbury personally owned Raymond Bayless painting, titled, “War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells”. Art depicts the famous naval battle from the story between a martian “Tripod” weapon and English ironclad, the HMS Thunder Child. Cityscape along the horizon is on fire, and the ship also goes up in flames with a cloud of black smoke, the martian chemical weapon, rising from it. Painting features a color palette of predominantly light blues and greys, accented in orange, black and white. Signed, “Raymond Bayless 91,” at lower left. A sticker on verso is also signed by the artist. Oil on Masonite painting is framed to an overall size of 18.75″ x 24.75″. Near fine. With a COA from the Bradbury Estate.

[Thanks to David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Francis Hamit, JJ, Jonathan Edelstein, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

Joyce Katz (1939-2016)

Joyce [Worley Fisher] Katz died July 30, succumbing to an array of serious medical problems that followed a stroke in May. She’s survived by her husband of 45 years, Arnie Katz.

She spent the past 25 years, after she and Arnie moved to Las Vegas, helping organize and host fan groups and conventions.

They published numerous fanzines, and participated in Corflu, an annual con for fanzine fans. Joyce chaired Corflu 29 and was on the committee for Corflu 25, as well as several local conventions, Silvercon 1-4.

Joyce was named “past president of fwa (fan writers of america)” for 2003 at the 2004 Corflu, an affectionate honorific. Her fan memoirs were published in Hard Science Tales, and her fanwriting was collected in The Sweetheart of Fanac Falls.

Joyce was born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri (according to Arnie, also the birthplace of Claude Degler). She discovered sf after marrying Ray Fisher in 1956. Fisher had been active as a fanzine publisher but became alienated from the scene and, as a result, it was not until the mid-1960s that Joyce connected with other fans. Once having done so they immediately co-founded the Ozark Science Fiction Association.

She worked on five Ozarkons. Ray Fisher resumed publishing Odd, which was nominated for a Hugo in 1968. And with plenty of prodding from New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis fandoms, Joyce found herself spearheading a St. Louis Worldcon bid after only three years as an actifan.

She and Ray split up the year after they co-chaired St. Louiscon. Joyce moved to New York. In 1971 she and Arnie married. She was a member of New York’s two faannish groups, the Fanoclasts and the Brooklyn Insurgents.

After moving to Las Vegas in 1989, Joyce and Arnie eventually resumed fan activity, helped found two fan groups — the Southern Nevada Area Fantasy Fiction Union (SNAFFU) and the Vegrants – and once again became prolific fanzine publishers. Joyce and Arnie were Fan GoH’s at the 1996 Westercon in El Paso.

[Thanks to Deb Geisler for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 7/3/16 All Blogs Go To Heaven

(1) CENTURIES. Marcelo Rinesi at Tactical Awareness offers an unusual free read – 100 Stories in 100 Words.

This books is a free collection of a hundred SF short stories (we live, as Warren Ellis remarks, in the Science Fiction Condition), each of them exactly one hundred words as reported by my text editor — if a piece of software says it, it must be true —, a self-imposed constraint I chose out of the same worrisome tendencies that made me need to do it in the first place.

It’s very weird, this world we’re building, with no overarching plot, some very unsettling corners, and no other moral lesson than with hindsight, it does look like something we would do, doesn’t it? If this book reflects at least part of it, I’ll think myself well rewarded for the time I put in it, and I hope you will too.

Here’s an example:

The Collectors

There’s a storm of happy notifications coming from your phone.

Somebody’s buying every last one of your paintings, so quickly that markets haven’t adjusted.

Quickly enough that they’ll have bought all of them before the ambulance gets to your cabin. The gunshot wound will have killed you before that anyway.

Maybe it’s the shock, but what enrages you is that they are going to destroy all of your paintings. All but one, which will become valuable enough to pay for the whole schema, assassin included.

You hope they at least pick the right one.

Click the link to access the PDF file.

(2) STELLAR IDEA. James Davis Nicoll’s line on Facebook was, “I can see no way that deliberately bombarding the Earth from space could go horribly wrong.”

National Geographic says “Get Ready for Artificial Meteor Showers”.

Natural meteor showers occur when Earth plows through trails of debris shed by passing comets. When this celestial schmutz slams into our atmosphere at breakneck speeds, the debris burns up and creates fiery streaks of light.

Now, if a Japanese start-up called ALE has its way, a satellite capable of generating artificial meteor showers will be in orbit sometime in the next two years. From 314 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, the orbiter will shoot metal spheres the size of blueberries into the upper atmosphere.

As these particles move across the sky at roughly 17,400 miles (28,000 kilometers) an hour, the spheres will burn into brilliant crisps—painting the night with colorful streaks on demand….

(3) THE TRUTH IS NOT OUT THERE. Don’t rely on what you’re hearing, says the director. “Fuller: Trek Gossip Rated ‘Pants On Fire’”.

Bryan Fuller won’t share too many details of the new Star Trek series, reportedly saving them for San Diego Comic-Con next month. But what he can say is all that gossip originating from a blog with unverified and uncorroborated information? Totally not true.

Fuller, the former “Star Trek: Voyager” writer who will serve as showrunner for the CBS All Access series, says reports that circulated over the spring that set his show after “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is false. Also false? The fact that the new series would be an anthology show.

In fact, Fuller said reading the various reports online about the show makes him almost wish there was a Politifact for rumors. Then he could check the accuracy and rate them on a varying scale between true and false.

“It’s interesting to see those suggestions, and seeing the truth mixed in with them, and going like, ‘Oh, they got that part right,'” Fuller told Moviefone’s Scott Huver. “But it’s sort of on the Truth-o-Meter on Politifact. It’s sort of like some truth, and a lot of like, ‘No, pants on fire! That’s not true.'”

(4) LEGION. Yahoo! Style reveals – “Another Marvel character just got their own TV show and we have our first look”.

Legion, a new series coming FX, centers around a character struggling with mental illness — and his own mutant powers. In the comics David Haller, played in the new series by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, is the son of Professor Charles Xavier and shares his father’s telepathic abilities.

In the television series, Haller will think the voices in his head are a symptom of mental illness, likely because in this universe (which is not the same as the universe of the X-Men films, but a parallel one) the public doesn’t know mutants exist. In fact, the U.S. government is only just becoming aware of them — so it’s natural for Heller not to realize he has superhuman powers.

(5) FINNCON. GoH Catherynne M. Valente at Finncon 2016. The committee says they drew 4000 visitors this weekend.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 3, 1985 — George Romero’s Day of the Dead is seen for the first time.
  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future released, features 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

(7) UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE. You can admire photos of Kevin Standlee in character as Col. Chinstrap, with his aide (Lt. Hayes) and orderly (Pvt. Bear), in his Livejournal post about the second day of Westercon.

Here we are in full outfits. As we went by the SJ in 2018 bid table, a person (we don’t remember who and don’t want to remember) came over and insisted that the little bronze cannon on the Colonel’s pith helmet was a “representation of a weapon” and thus prohibited by the hotel weapon’s policy and that we would have to take the hat back to our room.

(8) ASCENT OF MAN. Lou Antonelli ponders his recent history as a user of social media in a “Causerie on reaching 3,000 Facebook Friends” at This Way To Texas.

First off, Facebook is a necessary evil. There are a myriad of social platforms today, the proliferation of which is leading America towards a collective nervous breakdown. People are too distracted and have the attention span – maybe – of a cocker spaniel. And as I have said before, we knew in the past men did not possess telepathy because if we knew what we were thinking about each other, we’d be at each other’s throats. Well, the internet has accomplished that anyway, and we are indeed at each other’s throats – figuratively. Only time will tell if we implode into a full scale shooting civil war, in which case the figurative will have become the literal.

It’s not my strategy to quote entire posts, so let me assure you of finding many other lively opinions therein.

(9) FUTURE UNGUESSED. At SF Crowsnest, Geoff Willmets returns to a perennial question: “Editorial – July 2016: Can Science Fiction go any further than it is today”.

Reading ‘Cyberpunk Women, Feminism And Science Fiction by Carlen Lavigne’ last month made me realise once again that it’s been a long time since the last major attempt at change or addition to Science Fiction. My observations there that the real failure of cyberpunk, itself marketed since 1984, was because Ian Gibson took the tactic that young people would eventually rebel at computer tech taking over their lives when, as reality has shown, they have not only embraced but now can’t live without it. No major dissenters. No rebellion. No attacks on authority, be it corporation or government for privacy invasion, let alone taking over their lives. SF put up the markers and both sides are a little cautious or haven’t totally strayed into that area, with maybe the exception of China and some other dictatorial states. Well, not yet, anyway and the security services elsewhere don’t admit how much they can access so people tend to forget it. Those that fall into that category are either lone wolves or some rogue government wanting to stir things up but I doubt if it’s done for the dislike of computer software.

(10) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. Andrew Liptak seems to agree with Willmets about the arrangement of the literary map, but he is not disappointed with it — “How science fiction writers predicted virtual reality”.

What has set these novels apart from their peers is the ability of their authors to comprehend not the underlying technology itself, but how it is utilized by its users. Moreover, these authors have largely imagined not just their virtual worlds, but the real world that supports their use, depicting bleak, corporate-driven universes that feel not too unlike our own.

(11) NINEFOX. At Lady Business, renay reviews Ninefox Gambit in “Let’s Get Literate! Don’t Trust a Fox (Unless it’s a Robot Fox)”.

The society and political structure in Ninefox Gambit, known as the hexarchate, is one formed and held together by a version of advanced, far-future mathematics (i.e. magic) that allows a large society to create their own version of reality through a rigid belief system. And, okay, it’s not exactly math. But it has rules, like math has rules, so it’s a lot easier for me to think of it as mathematical. The book calls this system a calendar. Calendrical rot, which we’re introduced to in the first chapter, is what happens when another large group grows big and influential enough to create their own reality by believing something different. This creates a situation in which reality itself (depending on which calendar you’re standing in) doesn’t work right. Things go all wonky, weapons don’t work, and it’s a great big mess. The hexarchate is very interested in ensuring their dominance so their calendar and the six factions that operate under it remain the greatest calendar in all the universe. It’s an old story: people in power want to stay in power or want more power.

But wait! There’s a twist! There’s a heretical calendar afoot and it comes in the form of democracy and the captured-by-heretics Fortress of Scattered Needles.

For me, this is hard science fiction, because Ninefox Gambit is playing with how reality is formed and how we relate to one another on a system of time and in space. Ignoring the fact that the math and science in this novel are currently impossible, that’s enough for me to go, “well, this is a challenge to HOW WE PERCEIVE REALITY as a concept, that’s a logical problem, logic is math, there’s also sociology and psychology and philosophy mixed in, OMG THIS IS HARD SCIENCE FICTION.” Ask someone who didn’t fail every math class after 4th grade, and this is science fantasy, especially if you read “actual” hard science fiction. I don’t, because it’s often written by cisgender straight men who are like “women are people who can do things in novels besides be objects? That sounds fake but okay.” So yeah, I don’t read a lot of “proper” hard science fiction, with “real” math and science and that influences my reading of this novel. Bias disclosed!

(12) EAST MEETS WEST. Charles Stross and Cat Rambo at Westercon.

Had to get a pic with Charlie's shirt!

A post shared by Cat Rambo (@specfic) on

(13) GAIMAN ON LATE NIGHT. A couple weeks ago, Neil Gaiman was on Late Night with Seth Meyers and they talked about the American Gods TV adaptation.

(14) THE FLAMING C. Conan O’Brien will return to San Diego Comic-Con again this year, and interview the cast of Suicide Squad.

Last year O’Brien’s “Conacon” trip to SDCC produced some big laughs as he spoofed popular titles like Mad Max: Fury Road and brought his signature style of sarcastic, self-deprecating humor to everything from interviews with the cast of Game of Thrones to getting his own Conan superhero, The Flaming C, courtesy of Warner Bros. animator Bruce Timm. This year will likely boast even more laugh-out-loud moments as well as a huge amount of attention, given the comedian’s intention to interview the cast of Suicide Squad. Billed as social media’s most talked about movie of 2016, O’Brien’s sense of humor should provide an interesting and undoubtedly hilarious boost to Suicide Squad’s hype.

(15) THE PERMANENT THRONE CAMPAIGN. Emily Nussbaum tells why the just-ended season of Game of Thrones fits in so well with the election coverage in “The Westeros Wing”.

In the colossal, bloody, flawed, exhausting, occasionally intoxicating phenomenon that is “Game of Thrones,” the best bits are often moments like this: seductive mini-meditations on politics that wouldn’t be out of place in “Wolf Hall,” if “Wolf Hall” had ice zombies, or “Veep,” if “Veep” featured babies getting eaten by dogs. Season 6, which ended on Sunday, to the usual celebration and fury, and with the usual viral memes, and with corpses mangled (I assume, since HBO didn’t give me a screener), felt perversely relevant in this election year. It was dominated by debates about purity versus pragmatism; the struggles of female candidates in a male-run world; family dynasties with ugly histories; and assorted deals with various devils.

(16) BREWERS WITH SECRET IDENTITIES. David Mulvihill’s column about Southern California beers in the June/July Celebrator Beer News discusses Unsung Brewing, which is in Tustin but because of weird California reasons has their tasting room in Anaheim. The brewery was founded by Michael Crea.

Crea, an avid comic book fan when he was growing up. has incorporated the comics theme in his brewery’s branding and point of view. Beer nerd meets comic book nerd, as each beer takes the name of an unsung hero. Each backstory is created around the hero’s ingredients and its namesake’s alter ego or super power.  Look for quarterly releases of comics telling their heroes’ full stories, with artwork from local artists. See how Propeller-Head travels the world in search of the best coffee. How about the adventures of Buzzman’s battles with the yard beast?  Learn also about two female IPA heroes: Sylvan’s quest to save forests decimated by  big business and oil, and Anthia’s mission to help pollinate the earth’s fruit trees because of pesticide-related diminishment of bee and insect populations,  A prominent wall mural of Buzzman fighting the yard beast will be displayed in Unsung’s tasting room, which will be expected to open in early June.

The Unsung Brewing website has a section called “Credo” in which they explain why they’re all comics geeks.

We were raised on Batman. We came of age with the Incredible Hulk. We wore out our Spidey Super Stories LP. Hero mythology runs through our veins and flows through our glycol chiller. Digging deeper, we see super-traits in the unsung heroes of everyday life. From service men and women, firefighters and doctors, to friends and family who practice small acts of kindness and sacrifice– real life heroes surround us. We are dedicated to honoring these unsung heroes through philanthropy, and hope to inspire the hero in all of us.

(17) BY JUPITER 2. Lost in Space is getting rebooted by Netflix.

It’ll be interesting to see just how the new incarnation of the story is adapted on Netflix, especially with one of the executive producers behind Prison Break. Other rebooted science fiction television shows such as Battlestar Galactica have returned with a far more serious take than their original source material, and Netflix noted that this new version would be ready to please fans of the original show while bringing in modern audiences. A dark, modern drama is certainly something Netflix can deliver to viewers, but hopefully, they’ll keep the classic phrase “Danger, Will Robinson,” somewhere in there.

“I wonder if they will get John Williams to do the score?” asks John King Tarpinian.

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Denver Bid Wins 2018 Westercon

The unopposed Westminster, Colorado (Denver Area) bid for the 2018 Westercon was voted the right to host the convention today by members of Westercon 69 in Portland, Oregon.

Westercon 71 will be at the Westin Westminster on July 4-8, 2018.

The guests of honor will be:

  • Nancy Kress (Literary)
  • Rebecca Moesta (Editor)
  • Jeff Sturgeon (Artist)
  • Margaret Davis & Kristoph Klover (Music/Filk)

The Denver bid committee is: Nikki Ebright – Con Co-Chair; Peter J Wacks – Con Co-Chair; Keith McClune; Sheila McClune; David Boop; Billy Van Ark – Treasurer; Lou Berger; Carrie Kay – Minion at Large.

[Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/16 Pixels Gather And Now My Scroll Begins

(1) WHAT A SAVINGS. Get your Grabthar’s hammer t-shirt from TeeChip. These babies are going for $22.99, while they last!

Grabthars hammer t fruit-of-the-loom-cotton-t-131313

(2) WOODEN IT BE LUVERLY. It took over a year to carve, and “This Beautiful Millennium Falcon Was Made With Over 3,000 Pieces of Wood”.

(3) HISTORY OF A MYSTERY. Memorabilia of the 1955 Cleveland and 1956 NYC World Science Fiction Conventions  is up for auction on eBay. There are publications, etc., but the most interesting part to fanhistorians would be the Cleveland committee’s file copies of correspondence, like the letter sent in advance of the con to its “mystery guest of honor” Sam Moskowitz (lower right). The seller is looking for a starting bid of $499.99, and the auction has six days to run.

clevention correspondence

(4) CORNELL’S SHERLOCK. Paul Cornell’s episode of Elementary will be broadcast in the US this week. You can view the trailer on his blog.

On this coming Sunday, the 20th March, at 10pm, my episode of Elementary, ‘You’ve Got Me, Who’s Got You?’ will be broadcast on CBS.  Those in the Central and East Coast time zones should note that the NCAA March Madness second round (I assume that’s something to do with sport) will be taking place that day, so there’s a chance the episode might be delayed.  At any rate, I’ll be up at 3am my time to live tweet along with the show.  So that’ll be fun.  And possibly quite weird.  If you haven’t already found me on Twitter, I’m @paul_cornell.

As the official synopsis says: ‘when a man who secretly fought crime dressed as a popular comic book superhero is murdered, Holmes and Watson must discover his real identity before they can find his killer.  Also, Morland makes a surprise donation to Watson’s favorite charity, in order to compel her to do him a business-related favor.’

Which is spot on, really!

(5) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LOOKING-GLASS. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter tries to ease fantasy fans into the idea of reading sf – “Trying Out Science Fiction: A Guide For Fantasy Purists”. I’ve always had to listen to sf fans who talk about their dislike of fantasy (and, oh, the howls of rage when a Harry Potter book won the Hugo), but it never occurred to me there might be fantasy fans who had to be convinced to read sf. Now I know.

I picked up a trashy sci-fi novel in my teens and immediately encountered a confusing story full of alien languages and weird words, with unappealing characters and an empty, lacklustre world. I couldn’t make any sense of it and it made me vaguely depressed, so I put it down. I decided science fiction wasn’t for me.

Over a decade later, I finally gave it another go. I had often heard science fiction works mentioned by fellow fantasy fans and seen the genres placed side-by-side at conventions, in bookstores, and online. I thought: I really ought to explore this “other side of the coin” and see what all the fuss is about.

So, I started reading sci-fi. And found books I loved – even books I adored. I added several science fiction works to my all-time favourites list. In the process, I learned a few things that might be helpful to any fantasy lovers wanting to embark on a similar exploration of this sister genre:

Don’t Start With The Classics

There are many online forums where people ask, “I’ve never read any science fiction but I want to try it out, what should I read first?” and get a stream of comments recommending classic works like Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land and Foundation. These are indeed important works that have been enjoyed by many, but they’re probably not the best ones to start with. It’s like telling someone who’s never read fantasy to begin with Lord of the Rings or Elric of Melniboné. Yes, these are important stories and forerunners of the genre but they’re not exactly accessible or easy reads for a newcomer. (The exception here would be Ender’s Game, as it’s very accessible and easy to read despite its “classic” status).

You’re better off tackling the classics later, after you’ve cut your teeth on a modern, accessible read and worked up a taste for more….

(6) THEY PEEKED. Spy pics show off Star Wars’ new cool aliens and vehicles in “Meet Your New Favorite Alien From Star Wars Episode VIII” at Birth. Movies. Death.

Star Wars Episode VIII has committed the cardinal sin of filming outside, which means people with cameras have had a chance to snap pictures of the set. Most of the pics that have turned up have been kinda dull, but a whole slew appeared recently that have me beyond excited.

 

(7) DON’T DRINK AND TIME TRAVEL. That’s the lesson of this review of Version Control at Mashable.

Now comes Version Control, the trippy second novel by Dexter Palmer and the first pick for our new series — science fiction novel of the week. It’s easily one of the smartest, most unusual time-travel stories you’ll ever read — and one you don’t need a PhD. to understand, because it’s focused entirely on some very fascinating and flawed characters.

If time travel ever happened in the real world, it would probably look something like this: a bunch of obsessive scientists blandly insisting that what they’ve built is a serious-sounding “causality-violation device” (CVD), rather than a super-cliched “time machine.” And like many of our greatest technological advances, it would come with a whole bundle of unintended consequences

(8) KEN ADAM OBIT. Production designer Ken Adam, whose work included the war room in Dr. Strangelove and some of the sets in Dr. No, died March 10 reports the New York Times.

With “You Only Live Twice,” the fifth Bond film, Mr. Adam had more than half the total budget at his disposal. He spent $1 million of it building a volcano that contained a secret military base operated by the international terrorist organization Spectre.

“He was a brilliant visualizer of worlds we will never be able to visit ourselves,” Christopher Frayling, the author of two books on Mr. Adam, told the BBC in an article posted on Friday . “The war room under the Pentagon in ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ the interior of Fort Knox in ‘Goldfinger’ — all sorts of interiors which, as members of the public, we are never going to get to see, but he created an image of them that was more real than real itself.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 14, 1879 – Albert Einstein

Mental Floss has “10 Inventive Myths About Einstein Debunked”:

10. THE MYTH: HE WAS ONE OF ONLY 10 OR 12 WHO COULD UNDERSTAND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY.

Tired of being questioned about this idea, Einstein told the Chicago Daily Tribune in May 1921, “It is absurd. Anyone who has had sufficient training in science can readily understand the theory. There is nothing amazing or mysterious about it. It is very simple to minds trained along that line, and there are many such in the United States.” Today, a number of experts have taken on the challenge of decoding the complex theory and succeeded.

 

  • Born March 14, 1957 – Tad Williams

(11) THE SEMI-COMPLEAT RABID PUPPY. Vox Day reaches the finale of his slate: Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novel.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novel category.

  • Seveneves: A Novel, Neal Stephenson
  • Golden Son, Pierce Brown 
  • Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright
  • The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher
  • Agent of the Imperium, Marc Miller

(12) FOR THE RECORD. In a comment on the above post, John C. Wright summarized his experience at Sasquan last year.

Instead of criticizing me for bring unenthused and indifferent to World Con, which was the case and would have been a legitimate criticism, the Morlock here invents the idea out of nothing that I expected a warm welcome from the hags and termagants who have been sedulously ruining science fiction for twenty years, and that I was foolish for having such foolish expectations. Actually, I was treated quite warmly by the people I met there, the fans and other professionals. It was only David Gerrold and Patrick Hayden who were rude.

(13) AXANAR SUIT AMENDED. Trek Today presents as a list of bullet points all the newly specified copyright infringements performed by Axanar.

The Hollywood Reporter headlined a particular one: “Paramount Claims Crowdfunded ‘Star Trek’ Film Infringes Copyright To Klingon Language”.

After the Star Trek rights-holders sued producers, led by Alec Peters, who put out a short film and solicited donations with the aim of making a studio-quality feature set in the year 2245 — before Captain James T. Kirk took command, when the war with the Klingon Empire almost tore the Federation apart — the defendants brought a dismissal motion that faulted Paramount and CBS with not providing enough specificity about which of the “thousands” of copyrights relating to Star Trek episodes and films are being infringed — and how.

Ask and ye shall receive.

On Friday, Paramount and CBS filed an amended complaint that responded in a few ways.

To the argument that because the crowdfunded film hasn’t actually been made yet, the lawsuit is “premature, unripe and would constitute an impermissible prior restraint on speech,” the plaintiffs point to defendant’s Facebook post that mentioned a “locked script.” They also note a press interview that Peters gave on Feb. 1 where he said, “We violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film,” as an admission he indeed is violating copyright.

Click to read the amended lawsuit in full.

(13) WESTERCON 70 PR. Dee Astell, Chair of Westercon 70 (a.k.a. ConAlope 2017/LepreCo43) announced the con’s Progress Report #0 and #1 are available for download.

(14) LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER. Vanity Fair Hollywood says “Xena Reboot Series to Turn Implied Homoerotic Undertones into Glorious Homoerotic Overtones”.

NBC has ordered a new Xena pilot from writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, architect behind the CW’s cult hit The 100, and he plans to be a little more forthcoming about the undeniable chemistry between Xena and Gabrielle with this updated iteration. During a Q&A session on Tumblr, Grillo-Marxuach confirmed that the two women would be lovers, no bones about it:

i am a very different person with a very different world view than my employer on the 100 – and my work on the 100 was to use my skills to bring that vision to life. xena will be a very different show made for very different reasons. there is no reason to bring back xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s. it will also express my view of the world – which is only further informed by what is happening right now – and is not too difficult to know what that is if you do some digging.

His passing reference to differing worldviews alludes to a minor kerfuffle among devotees of The 100 following the death of fan-favorite character Lexa, who was in a relationship with the also-female Clarke prior to her untimely demise. Fans cried foul and the choice to extinguish one of the small lights of hope for LGBTQ viewers on television, and Grillo-Marxuach has evidently heard their pleas loud and clear. This new series—the fate of which is still something of question mark, considering that NBC is still far from ordering it to series—will right past wrongs and placate the fans in one fell swoop. And best of all, it’ll provide young viewers with a hero with whom they can identify.

(15) DESPERATELY SEEKING MARVIN. Yahoo! News has the story: “Europe-Russia mission blasts off on hunt for life on Mars”.

One key goal of the Trace Gas Orbiter is to analyse methane, a gas which on Earth is created in large part by living microbes, and traces of which were observed by previous Mars missions.

“TGO will be like a big nose in space,” said Jorge Vago, ExoMars project scientist.

Methane, the ESA said, is normally destroyed by ultraviolet radiation within a few hundred years, which implied that in Mars’ case “it must still be produced today”.

TGO will analyse Mars’ methane in more detail than any previous mission, said ESA, in order to try to determine its likely origin.

(16) MARS ATTACKS GAME. Here’s a video demonstration of how to play Mars Attacks: The Dice Game by Steve Jackson Games. (If this really turns you on, there are four more videos about the game at the SJG site.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Tom Galloway, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]